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Midnight (1934)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 7 March 1934 (USA)
The foreman of a jury asks questions that send a woman to the electric chair for a murder committed in the heat of passion. On the night of the execution, his actions come back to haunt him.

Director:

Chester Erskine (as Chester Erskin)

Writers:

Paul Sifton (play), Claire Sifton (play)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Sidney Fox ... Stella Weldon
O.P. Heggie ... Edward Weldon
Henry Hull ... Nolan
Margaret Wycherly ... Mrs. Weldon
Lynne Overman ... Joe Biggers (as Lynn Overman)
Katherine Wilson Katherine Wilson ... Ada Biggers
Richard Whorf ... Arthur Weldon
Humphrey Bogart ... Gar Boni
Granville Bates ... Henry McGrath
Cora Witherspoon ... Elizabeth McGrath
Moffat Johnston Moffat Johnston ... Dist. Atty. Plunkett (as Moffat Johnson)
Henry O'Neill ... Ingersoll (as Henry O'Neil)
Helen Flint ... Ethel Saxton
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Storyline

The foreman of a jury asks questions that send a woman to the electric chair for a murder committed in the heat of passion. On the night of the execution, his actions come back to haunt him.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

murder | execution | trial by jury | See All (3) »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

Latin | English

Release Date:

7 March 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Call It Murder See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

All Star Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Wide Range Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Film debut of Richard Whorf. See more »

Goofs

During Stella and Gar's first meeting in the court room, audible clicks can be heard between their line. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ethel Saxon: You see, I loved him. I mean I loved him when... when he didn't love me anymore, day in and day out watching him get further and further away from me. I could see in his eyes when he looked at me... I could see he hated me, hated me because I needed him. Oh, I was so frightened, so mixed up. It's so horrible to see someone who's become part of you slipping away, slowly. To feel helpless and empty, lonely and frantic, wanting to do something, anything, anything to bring him back! To...
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

In the retitled version, "Call it Murder" Humphrey Bogart's billing is moved to above the title. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Press Gang: Friendly Fire (1993) See more »

Soundtracks

Nola
(uncredited)
Music by Felix Arndt
Played on the radio as Nolan is demonstrating the set to Joe.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A find for connoisseurs; the unsophisticated may well pass
13 January 2009 | by eschetic-1See all my reviews

MIDNIGHT (reissued by "Guaranteed Pictures" in 1947 as CALL IT MURDER with eighth billed Humphrey Bogart - now famous - elevated to top billing for his supporting role) was originally filmed at the Biograph Studios in Queens, New York, for Universal Pictures, based on a Theatre Guild production of the same name (but called IN THE MEANTIME during its tryout tour).

While the stage production disappointed the critics and was not extended beyond its initial subscription run (48 perf., December 29, 1930 - Feb. 1931 at the Guild Theatre), Claire and Paul Sifton's examination of the flaws in the idea that "the law is the law" regardless of justice or tempering with mercy was interesting enough to justify Universal's committing a cast from the top of their second tier to turning out a decent "programmer" to fill the demand for films to keep the screens they controlled occupied between their major releases and training stars in the making (like Bogart and Sidney Fox).

The original play concerned the foreman of a jury, a man named Edward Weldon (O.P. Heggie on screen), which had condemned a woman for the murder of a man who was leaving her - only to find, two acts later, his daughter (Fox) in a similar situation.

Director Chester Erskine (at the start of a career which would see well remembered work on such "A" releases as THE EGG AND I, ALL MY SONS and ANDROCLES AND THE LION, working as director, writer and producer for another 40 years), while unable to produce the figurative "silk purse" out of a possible "sow's ear" of a melodrama, opened up the play, originally set only in the Weldon living room, with excellent - and given the period, surprisingly sophisticated - crosscutting between the condemned woman, the daughter's developing affair and the moral quandary around the Weldon himself.

If the 30's structure of the argument may strike many as dated today, and the "deus ex machina" solution to one of Weldon's problems too pat to be genuinely satisfying, they probably are - but the elder Weldon's overly strict, unbending interpretation of his moral and civic obligations is hardly unknown today as an excuse for lack of thought or bigotry. A remake with more "modern" technique might indeed be well received, but the implicit melodrama would be just as blatant.

While Humphrey Bogart's role is a relatively small one (although it is woven through most of the film), it makes for legitimately fascinating viewing as a transitional role for the handsome actor who had been playing stage juveniles. He had had 15 Broadway roles in the 12 years - and 9 films in the three years - before making this film, but would only have two more Broadway credits afterward (but 66 films). His Gar Boni in MIDNIGHT is very well done in a more modern style than many around him (see the similar effect the young Helen Hayes achieved with the same then "fresh" realistic style in 1932's FAREWELL TO ARMS) before finding the "world weary" persona that won career-making acclaim for his "Duke Mantee" opposite Leslie Howard on Broadway and screen just two years later.

It may be of some interest that on stage, the supporting role of Arthur Weldon (played in the film by future director Richard Whorf) was created by actor/playwright Clifford Odets.

Finding a good print of MIDNIGHT or even CALL IT MURDER may not be easy, but the search may be worth it. Don't expect a polished "modern" film, and shallow film buffs who don't appreciate history or context will probably hate it, but true film connoisseurs shouldn't miss this one for what IS there.


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